Skip to main content

Intelligentsia Socialism and the “Workers' Revolution”: The Views of J. W. Machajski

  • Anthony D'Agostino

The notion that the leadership of industrial society must eventually be ceded to an educated elite of technical and administrative experts is an important theme in the social thought of the last two centuries. It can be found as early as Saint-Simon's plans for the Système Industriel. As a criticism of the supposedly anti-proletarian aspects of Socialism it is commonly thought to have originated with James Burnham's idea of a “managerial revolution” and appeared later with Milovan Djilas's “new class”. Actually the criticism of “State Socialism” in general, and of Marxism in particular, for an alleged tropism toward managerialism was also a weapon in the arsenal of nineteenth century anarchism. An integral part of Bakunin's criticism of Marx, whom he called the “Bismarck of Socialism”, was the contention that Marxism in power would organize society “under the direct command of state engineers who will constitute a new privileged scientific-political class”. This thesis has had its most consistent and rigorous formulation in the work of Jan Waclaw Machajski, a Polish-Russian revolutionary who based his theory on the conviction that Socialism was not the ideology of the proletariat but of what he called the “intellectual workers”, the new middle class of white collar employees generated by industrial capitalism. The most important antagonism in modern society, thought Machajski, was that between the educated – to whom he gave the inclusive term “bourgeois society” – and the uneducated manual laborers. He argued that a portion of educated society, the Socialist intelligentsia with Marxists in the forefront, was attempting to gain for itself a privileged position in capitalist society by turning the labor movement away from direct action for higher wages and toward a struggle for parliamentary power which could only benefit the intellectual workers.

    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Intelligentsia Socialism and the “Workers' Revolution”: The Views of J. W. Machajski
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Intelligentsia Socialism and the “Workers' Revolution”: The Views of J. W. Machajski
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Intelligentsia Socialism and the “Workers' Revolution”: The Views of J. W. Machajski
      Available formats
Hide All

page 54 note 1 Bakunin, M., Izbrannie sochineniia (Moscow, 1922), Vol. I, p. 237.

page 55 note 1 Bakounine, M., Oeuvres (Paris, 1895), Vol. I, pp. 226–27.

page 55 note 2 That Machajski is known at all outside Russia and Poland is due to his former follower, Max Nomad. See his Aspects of Revolt (New York, 1959), ch. 5. Recent accounts include Avrich, Paul, “What is ‘Makhaevism’?”, in: Soviet Studies (07, 1965), and Shatz, Marshall, “The Conspiracy of the Intellectuals”, in: Survey (01, 1967). I am grateful to Max Nomad for allowing me to use his materials on Machajski in his private collection and in the Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis in Amsterdam.

page 56 note 1 Żeromski, Stefan, Dzienniki (Warsaw, 1953), Vol. 1, p. 347. Also Pigoñ, Stanislaw, “Zygzaki przyjaźni”, in: Mile życia drobiazgi (Warsaw, 1964), p. 35.

page 56 note 2 Syzyfowe prace (Cracow, 1928), p. 267. The character of Radek impressed the young Polish Marxist, Sobelsohn, sufficiently for him to adopt the name – thus the later Bolshevik, Karl Radek.

page 57 note 1 The Polish nationalist, Roman Dmowski, at the time of Machajski's arrest in Zakopane in 1911, writing in Gazeta Warszawska, described the period of Machajski's service in the national cause as a “conservative” or “traditionalist” phase, probably only in order to gain some sympathy for his old associate among Polish patriots. See Pigoñ, op. cit., pp. 356–57. Żeromski tried at the same time to present a similar picture.

page 57 note 2 Machajski, J. W., “Z życia Konspiracyjnego w Kongresówce”, in: Pobudka (Paris), No 1 (01, 1892), p. 3.

page 57 note 3 Quoted in Machajska, Wiera, “Życie i poglady Waclawa Machajskiego”, in: Wiadomości (London), No 831 (03 4, 1962), p. 2.

page 58 note 1 Grünberg, K. and Kozlowski, Cz., Historia Polskiego ruchu robotniczego, 1864–1918 (Warsaw, 1962), p. 9097.

page 58 note 2 Wiera Machaj ska, op. cit. For the other Polish radicals they showed that the reverses of 1889–92 had not been in vain. See Horst Schumacher and Feliks Tych, Julian Marchlewski (Warsaw, 1966), pp. 48–50.

page 59 note 1 Wroñski, A. [Jodko, Witold], Program rolny PPS (Cracow, 1909), p. 21.

page 59 note 2 Socjalistyczna, Polska Partya, Anarchizm a bandytyzm (Warsaw, 1906), pp. 2021.

page 59 note 3 “Res” [Perl, Feliks], Patrjotyzm a socjalizm (Cracow, 1909), p. 21.

page 60 note 1 Vol'ski, A. [Machajski, J. W.], Umstvennyi rabochii (Geneva, 1905), Part I, p. 41. Machajski here refers to the school of political thinking post-1863, which based itself on a philosophical application of Comte's Positivism to the Polish scene. Its leading proponents, men like Aleksander Swiętochowski, emphasized the “positive” aspects of the Polish predicament – the possibility for peaceful economic progress within the Empire – as against the purportedly romantic tradition of patriotism.

page 60 note 2 Ibid.

page 60 note 3 Ibid., pp. 42–43.

page 61 note 1 The emphasis on the role of the larger Russian market is a point common to his and Rosa Luxemburg's criticisms of Polish “social-patriotism”, for example, in her article “From Stage to Stage”, in: Neue Zeit, No 6 (18971898), pp. 164176, with Kautsky's appended note that “We do not support its entire stand-point.” For a Polish critique, see “Res” [Perl, Feliks], Kwestya polska w oswietleniu “Socyaldemokracyi” polskiej (Warsaw, 1907).

page 61 note 2 Umstvennyi rabochii, Part I, pp. 44–49.

page 61 note 3 Ibid., p. 44.

page 61 note 4 Ibid., p. 42.

page 62 note 1 Ibid., pp. 43, 45. Also J. W. Machajski, Bankrotstvo sotsializma XIX stoletiia (Geneva, 1905), p. 8; and Burzuazyina rewolucya a sprawa robotnicza (Geneva, 1905), p. 4–5. By ld;szlachta”, Machajski refers not to the historic aristocracy which ruled Poland up to the partitions but rather, figuratively, to the remains of the patriotic landowning class.

page 62 note 2 The excitement caused by Machajski's ideas upset another exile, Trotsky: “For several months the work of Makhaiski [Machajski] was in the center of attention of the Lena exiles. Bold in its verbal negations, but lifeless and cowardly in its practical conclusions, it provided me with a strong inoculation against anarchism.” Leon Trotsky, Moia zhizn' (Berlin, 1930), p. 154. Trotsky ran into the Makhaevist heresy at numerous points in his life and he always pointed out that Machajski was its originator, as in The Soviet Union and the Fourth International (New York, 1934), pp. 17–19, in which he continued to insist that bureaucracy was only “the political technique of class rule”. One of his last political acts in 1939 was to anathemize James Burnham, then groping toward the idea of the “managerial revolution”.

page 64 note 1 Rabochii zagovor, Geneva (September-October, 1907), pp. 48–49.

page 64 note 2 Ibid.

page 64 note 3 Umstvennyi rabochii, Part I, p. iv.

page 64 note 4 Ibid.

page 65 note 1 Ibid., pp. 197ndash;20.

page 65 note 2 Ibid., p. 21.

page 66 note 1 Engels, , Preface to 1885 edition, Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. II (Moscow, 1967), p. 20.

page 66 note 2 Umstvennyi rabochii. Part II, pp. 3–4.

page 67 note 1 Ibid., Part II, pp. 18–22. Machajski, like Marx, adhered to the labor theory of value. The portion of the national capital fund allotted to costs of management is traced by him back to the unpaid increment of value produced at the worker's bench. This was, after all, intended as a rigorous use of the method which Marx had cunningly refrained from using to analyze Socialist accumulation.

page 67 note 2 Ibid., Part II, p. 18.

page 67 note 3 Ibid., Part II, p. 4.

page 67 note 4 Ibid., Part II, p. 42.

page 67 note 5 Ibid., Part I, Conclusion, pp. 81n–82.

page 68 note 1 Ibid.

page 68 note 2 Ibid., Part II, p. 22.

page 68 note 3 Bankrotstvo sotsializma XIX stoletiia (Geneva, 1905), p. 10.

page 69 note 1 See Machajski's, “Primechaniia perevodchika” to Marx, K. and Engels, F., Sviatoe Semeistvo (St Petersburg, 1906), 2 vols, pp. 3963, for the argument described above.

page 69 note 2 Ibid., p. 44.

page 69 note 3 Ibid., p. 43.

page 69 note 4 Ibid., p. 48.

page 69 note 5 Ibid., p. 54.

page 69 note 6 Ibid., p. 47.

page 70 note 1 Similar pessimistic conclusions about the growth of the middle layers of society can be found in anarchist literature. See V. Cherkezov, Doktriny Marksizma: nauka-li eto (Geneva, 1904) and The Concentration of Capital (London, 1911). Cherkezov, an orthodox Kropotkinist, argued that Marxism, in predicting the shrinkage of bourgeois society, was not only wrong, but in doing so had set up a deliberate smokescreen to conceal from the workers the desperate situation presaged by the growth of “imperial and military bureaucracies” and the multiplication of individual property ownership. He claimed to have made the first statement (in 1894) of theses which would be at the center of the Revisionist controversy.

page 70 note 2 “Bismarck seriously intended to teach socialism for the strengthening of the German state.” Max Nacht [Max Nomad], Unpublished Manuscript (in Polish), 1908, p. 119, Max Nomad Collection.

page 71 note 1 Rabochii zagovor, p. 56.

page 71 note 2 Podolianin [E. Lozinskii], Klassovaia proletarskaia borba v strane vsetorzhest-vuiushchavo kapitalizma (Moscow, 1906), pp. 8–9. Lozinski was the most prolific of Machajski's Russian popularizers. Here Makhaevist criticism also seems to anticipate the “iron law of oligarchy” thesis, presented in Roberto Michels, Zur Soziologie des Parteiwesens in der Modernen Demokratie (Leipzig, 1911).

page 71 note 3 Rabochii zagovor, p. 52.

page 71 note 4 Ibid., pp. 51–52.

page 72 note 1 Machajski clearly thought that much could be learned from the democratic countries about the future “planned” by the intellectual workers. He seems to have expected the main vehicle of the intelligentsia to be democratic socialism. Nevertheless, he expected the same result – the class rule of the intellectual workers – from different routes: paternalist state socialism, democratic socialism and “Jacobin” forms such as Leninism. The intellectual workers were, in his eyes, the only national class of socialism, with or without free political institutions.

page 72 note 2 Rabochii zagovor, p. 47.

page 72 note 3 The standpoint of Trotsky and Helphand-Parvus post 1905 is an exception; like Machajski, they hoped for an immediate social revolution.

page 73 note 1 In this connection we might note that a sense of industrial “;reason of state” was prominent among those who, unhke Marxists, hoped for non-capitalist development of Russia. For example, the Legal Populist Vorontsov feared the penetration into government of entrepreneurial ideas of insensate industrial expansion but was nevertheless quite impressed by the “brilliant successes of German industry”. “Germany,7rd; he thought, “like Russia, is industrially young, and the example of her rapid successes may support the hope that Russia may too follow in her path.” (V. V. [Vorontsov], “Promyshlennye uspekhi Germanii”, in: Vestnik Evropy (April, 1901,) p. 787.) This is important in order to recognize that Machajski's view of the Russian situation rested on a picture of the rise of democracy in a milieu increasingly concerned with the preservation of national interest throughout the process of industrial development. As a consequence of the exhaustion of the anti-state capacities of West European liberalism, democracy could even be thought of as a kind of étatisme. “… Social Democratic socialism is government socialism, as it exists in democracy.” Umstvennyi rabochii, Part II, p. 57.

page 73 note 2 Umstvennyi rabochii, Part I, pp. xi–xii.

page 73 note 3 Ibid., Part I, p. xii.

page 74 note 1 Ibid., Part I, pp. xiv–xvi.

page 74 note 2 Ibid.

page 75 note 1 Lozinskii in Protiv techeniia (1907), No 2, p. 15. Lozinskii correctly anticipated the tendency of the French national unions in that direction, a tendency which was given a large push by the replacement after 1908 of the leadership of Griffuelhes, Pouget and Yvetot by that of the “pure syndicalists”, led by Leon Jouhaux.

page 75 note 2 Rabochii zagovor, p. 63.

page 75 note 3 Umstvennyi rabochii, Part 1, pp. vii–viii.

page 75 note 4 Rabochii zagovor, p. 63. His popularizer Lozinskii imagined a slightly different agency. Committees of delegates should be elected from factories, workshops and from each “more or less significant group” to be “united in a more centralized organization to dictate its demands to the class structure”. Protiv techeniia, No 3 (1907), p. 11.

page 76 note 1 Wiera Machajska, Short History of the Machajski Group, unpublished manuscript. Max Nomad Collection; B. I. Gorev, “Apoliticheskiia i anti-parlamentskiia gruppy (Anarkhisty, maximalisty, Makhaevtsy)”, in: Obshchestvennoe dvizhenie v Rossii v nachale XX-go veka (St Petersburg, 1909–14), Vol. 3, p. 525. Gorev reported that they had, however, begun an intellectual trend in Odessa before 1905. He also described a bandit gang Zmowa Robotnicza (Workers' Conspiracy) formed at the same time as the Rabochii Zagovor in St Petersburg; they were simply gunmen operating without the benefit of Makhaevist theory. See Max Nomad, Aspects of Revolt, p. 220–222. Also Pigon, op. cit., pp. 373–80.

page 76 note 2 Max Nomad, “White Collars and Horny Hands”, in: Modern Quarterly (Fall, 1932), p. 75. See also his Dreamers, Dynamiters and Demagogues (New York, 1964).

page 77 note 1 Umstvennyi rabochii, Part I, pp. 73–74.

page 77 note 2 Rabochii zagovor, pp. 25–. Makhaevism was consequently called the “class ideal of the lumpenproletariat”. See Ivanov-Razumnik, Chto takoe Maks-haevshchina? (St Petersburg, 1908), p. 93. Gorev (op. cit., p. 528) also emphasized that aspect. A Stalin era pamphlet showed the most imagination, finding that the “;declassed petty-bourgeoisie is the main social-class base of Makhaevsh-china.” L. Syrkin, Makhaevshchina (Moscow, 1931), p. 62.

page 78 note 1 In the light of Machajski's critique it is interesting to consider these words of Martov's directed against Bolshevism: “An effective force concentrated in the State, which can thus realize the conscious will of the majority despite the resistance of an economically powerful minority – here is the dictatorship of the proletariat. It can be nothing else than that in light of the teachings of Marx. Not only must a dictatorship adapt itself to a democratic regime, but it can only exist in the framework of democracy, that is, under conditions where there is the full exercise of absolute political equality on the part of all citizens. Such a dictatorship can only be conceived in a situation where the proletariat has effectively united about itself ‘all the healthy elements’ of the nation, that is, all those that cannot but benefit by the program of the proletariat. It can only be established when historic development will have brought all the healthy elements to recognize the advantage to them of this transformation. The government embodying such a ‘dictatorship’ will be, in the full sense of the term, a ‘national government’.” I. Martov, Mirovoi bol'shevizm (Berlin, 1923), pp. 107–108.

page 78 note 2 Umstvennyi rabochii, Part II, p. 56.

page 79 note 1 Wiera Machajska, “Życie i poglądy Waclawa Machajskiego”, p. 3.

page 79 note 2 “Primechaniia perevodchika”, pp. 53–54.

page 79 note 3 Rabochaia revoUutsiia, p. 28.

page 79 note 4 Ibid., p. 1.

page 80 note 1 Ibid., p. 2.

page 80 note 2 Ibid.

page 80 note 3 I. Martov, op. cit., pp. 13–14.

page 81 note 1 P. A. Garvi, Vospominaniia sotsialdemokrata (New York, 1946), pp. 291–92. Garvi added, however, that “on the other side, the party dictatorship of the Bolsheviks, the party dictatorship over the proletariat, justified Machajski's prediction of the danger of the accession to power, in place of the bourgeoisie, of the ‘Intellectual Workers’, engineers, and technicians, organizers of the economy masquerading as socialists.”

page 81 note 2 Rabochaia revoliutsiia, p. 7.

page 81 note 3 Umstvennyi rabochii, Part I, pp. xxii–xxiv.

page 81 note 4 Ibid., Part I, p. xxiii.

page 82 note 1 Umstvennyi rabochii, Part I, pp. 15–16.

page 82 note 2 Bankrotstvo sotsializma XIX stoletiia, p. 26.

page 82 note 3 Ibid., p. 30.

page 82 note 4 Rabochaia revoliutsiia, p. 20.

page 82 note 5 Ibid., p. 13.

page 83 note 1 Umstvennyi rabochii, Part II, p. 20.

page 83 note 2 Rabochaia revoliutsiia, pp. 12, 26.

page 83 note 3 Ibid., p. 1.

page 83 note 4 He was, however, quite critical of the attempts of the anarchists to organize the revolution because, he said, they had not been able to advance the workers' interests any further than Bolshevism (Ibid., pp. 22–24). Here, he spoke in different terms, although hardly less harsh, than those he had used earlier to speak of the anarchism of the Khleb i Volia type, which, he correctly claimed, did not look further than the bourgeois revolution. Such criticism was one of the tasks of The Intellectual Worker. See also Podolianin [Lozinskii], Sovremennyi anarkhizm (Moscow, 1906), p. 9.

page 83 note 5 Rabochaia revoliutsiia, p. 2.

page 83 note 6 Ibid., p. 5.

page 84 note 1 Ibid., pp. 15–16.

page 84 note 2 Ibid., p. 17.

page 84 note 3 Ibid., pp. 21, 31.

page 84 note 4 Ibid., p. 2.

page 84 note 5 See Strypyansky, Max [Nomad, Max], “Non-Conformists of the Russian Revolution”, in: Soviet Russia, Vol. 5, No 1 (07, 1921), p. 31; “part of [Machajski's] predictions had not come true – viz. the Bolsheviks had turned out to be better than he expected and he was not sorry.”

page 86 note 1 Yaroslavsky, E., History of Anarchism in Russia (New York, 1937), p. 39. See also L. Syrkin, op. cit., pp. 53–55.

page 87 note 1 Rabochaia mysl', No 4 (10 1898), p. 1.

page 87 note 2 Ibid., No 11 (April, 1901), p. 1.

page 87 note 3 Zubatov, S., “Zubatovshchina”, in: Byloe, No 4 (10, 1917), p. 175.

page 87 note 4 On some of the experiences of the Zubatovshchina, see “K istorii Zubatovsh-chiny”, in: Byloe, No 1 (07, 1917), pp. 8699.

page 87 note 5 Ibid., p. 95.

page 88 note 1 Quoted in Koz'min, B. P., P. N. Tkachev i revoliutsionnoe dvizhenie 1860-kh godov (Moscow, 1922), pp. 1937ndash;94.

page 88 note 2 Kablits, [Iuzov, ], Intelligentsia i narod (St Petersburg, 1886), p. 73.

page 89 note 1 Ibid., pp. 106–107, 129.

page 89 note 2 [Vorontsov], V. V., Nashi napravleniia, p. 68,quoted in Ivanov-Razumnik, Chto takoe Makhaevshchina? (St Petersburg, 1908), p. 12.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

International Review of Social History
  • ISSN: 0020-8590
  • EISSN: 1469-512X
  • URL: /core/journals/international-review-of-social-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 29 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 99 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 24th March 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.